Feature selection using mutual information in network intrusion detection system

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Network technologies have made significant progress in development, while the security issues alongside these technologies have not been well addressed. Current research on network security mainly focuses on developing preventative measures, such as security policies and secure communication protocols. Meanwhile, attempts have been made to protect computer systems and networks against malicious behaviours by deploying Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs). The collaboration of IDSs and preventative measures can provide a safe and secure communication environment. Intrusion detection systems are now an essential complement to security project infrastructure of most organisations. However, current IDSs suffer from three significant issues that severely restrict their utility and performance. These issues are: a large number of false alarms, very high volume of network traffic and the classification problem when the class labels are not available. In this thesis, these three issues are addressed and efficient intrusion detection systems are developed which are effective in detecting a wide variety of attacks and result in very few false alarms and low computational cost. The principal contribution is the efficient and effective use of mutual information, which offers a solid theoretical framework for quantifying the amount of information that two random variables share with each other. The goal of this thesis is to develop an IDS that is accurate in detecting attacks and fast enough to make real-time decisions. First, a nonlinear correlation coefficient-based similarity measure to help extract both linear and nonlinear correlations between network traffic records is used. This measure is based on mutual information. The extracted information is used to develop an IDS to detect malicious network behaviours. However, the current network traffic data, which consist of a great number of traffic patterns, create a serious challenge to IDSs. Therefore, to address this issue, two feature selection methods are proposed; filter-based feature selection and hybrid feature selection algorithms, added to our current IDS for supervised classification. These methods are used to select a subset of features from the original feature set and use the selected subset to build our IDS and enhance the detection performance. The filter-based feature selection algorithm, named Flexible Mutual Information Feature Selection (FMIFS), uses the theoretical analyses of mutual information as evaluation criteria to measure the relevance between the input features and the output classes. To eliminate the redundancy among selected features, FMIFS introduces a new criterion to estimate the redundancy of the current selected features with respect to the previously selected subset of features. The hybrid feature selection algorithm is a combination of filter and wrapper algorithms. The filter method searches for the best subset of features using mutual information as a measure of relevance between the input features and the output class. The wrapper method is used to further refine the selected subset from the previous phase and select the optimal subset of features that can produce better accuracy. In addition to the supervised feature selection methods, the research is extended to unsupervised feature selection methods, and an Extended Laplacian score EL and a Modified Laplacian score ML methods are proposed which can select features in unsupervised scenarios. More specifically, each of EL and ML consists of two main phases. In the first phase, the Laplacian score algorithm is applied to rank the features by evaluating the power of locality preservation for each feature in the initial data. In the second phase, a new redundancy penalization technique uses mutual information to remove the redundancy among the selected features. The final output of these algorithms is then used to build the detection model. The proposed IDSs are then tested on three publicly available datasets, the KDD Cup 99, NSL-KDD and Kyoto dataset. Experimental results confirm the effectiveness and feasibility of these proposed solutions in terms of detection accuracy, false alarm rate, computational complexity and the capability of utilising unlabelled data. The unsupervised feature selection methods have been further tested on five more well-known datasets from the UCI Machine Learning Repository. These newly added datasets are frequently used in literature to evaluate the performance of feature selection methods. Furthermore, these datasets have different sample sizes and various numbers of features, so they are a lot more challenging for comprehensively testing feature selection algorithms. The experimental results show that ML performs better than EL and four other state-of-art methods (including the Variance score algorithm and the Laplacian score algorithm) in terms of the classification accuracy.
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